It might only have been a regular-season league encounter but the meeting a fortnight ago between Cork and Dublin felt more meaningful than that.

The Dubs, chasing five All-Ireland titles in a row this season, have beaten the Rebels in the final in two of the last three years and got the better of their hosts again - by a single point - in a seven-goal thriller.

Cork centre-forward Ciara O'Sullivan bagged 1-03 from play - and the inaugural PwC GPA Women's Player of the month award for May - but is still smarting over the result.

"It is funny after the match everyone was saying 'it was a great game and ye gave them a good run, ye will take loads of learnings from that, etc and it is only the league'," she tells RTÉ Sport.

"And you listen to all that and you are still absolutely just sickened that you lost. It does not kind of make it any better.

"I think it is good that we did feel so disappointed to lose or at least not get the draw but what we were happy with was the fightback, in terms of having gone eight points down and coming back into it and being within a point.

"In previous years we maybe would not have had that kick and we would have let them win comfortably and that did not happen, which was a positive.

"In that sense, I would like to think we are getting a bit closer. There is no doubt that they are the standard bearers but I think what was good was the fightback and the way we went at 50/50 balls and not being kind of being physically dominated which we would have been in previous years."

O'Sullivan is careful to point out that Cork minds are fully focused on Donegal and their Lidl NFL Division 1 semi-final on Saturday, and adds that there are "a lot of other top teams out there" but the fact remains that Dublin are the side everyone will be trying to knock off their perch.

For the Mourneabbey star, matching the champions aggression will be crucial if they meet again later in the summer.

"It's not even physically in terms of what we're doing in the gym, or strength and conditioning wise, it's when it comes to the actual match not being bullied, pushed off the ball easily and stuff," she said.

"We don't let that happen against other teams and I don't know why in recent years we kind of half stepped back a bit from Dublin and let them dictate the pace of the game.

"So I think that was a good learning for us last year coming out of the final and bringing it in to the league game, to just assert our dominance on them as much as possible and not just wait for them to bring the game to us."

Ciara O'Sullivan with her Player of the Month award

O'Sullivan (30) has won eight All-Ireland medals but, amazingly, the recent league encounter with Tipperary was her first appearance at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in a 14-year career.

"I've played in Páirc Uí Rinn and I've been lucky enough to play in Croke Park a good few times so it probably is a bit strange that you've played in Croke Park a good few times before you've played in PUC.

"The girls did play there last year but I wasn't back from injury for that match last year.

"I think great credit is due to Cork and the county board for extending it that we can all play in it and it's great to see.

"I think it is great for Ladies football to be played in the main stadiums in different counties now. It is great to see the progress because that had not happened a few years ago.

"It was kind of a big deal for me to be playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before I do retire, which probably won't be that far long now, so it was nice to have that."

"Hopefully in the coming years what that will mean is that it won't be 'women in sport', it'll just be sport and it'll be spoken of equally."

As well as playing at county grounds, O'Sullivan believes that a merger of the currently separate GAA, Ladies football and Camogie associations would help to break down gender boundaries.

"I think that would be good in the future," she says. "There seems to be an appetite among players for that to happen and from my own point of view the main reason for that is probably twofold; a fixtures point of view and also the clashes that we have seen with camogie as a dual county.

"If you look at a men's team they know their fixtures and then know where a match will be played so far in advance and that's great to see.

"If joining the GAA would give us that bit of certainty, I think that would be great. If we were under the same umbrella and the GAA and camogie were as well, it would mean not having the clashes that the dual players have had so frequently over the last number of years.

"There's so much work done in the media over the last number of years to promote women in sport and hopefully in the coming years what that will mean is that it won't be 'women in sport', it'll just be sport and it'll be spoken of equally.

"That work that's going on at the moment is needed to get up to that point and to make it a level playing field so to speak.

"Stuff like this, equality in terms of (player of the month) awards and all the rest of it, expenses as well, is brilliant and goes a long way to making sure that we'll be talking about Gaelic football and it'll be the same for men and women. Hurling will be the same as camogie.

"That will be the end goal. There's work going on at the moment and we have a bit more to get us there but that would be great."

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